Hazing is a tradition that has been accepted without question for centuries. Many people believe that it is a necessary rite of passage that creates and bonds within the group. Although this is not true, the misconception lives on. Often intelligent, moral people haze others, because they assume that they will not "get caught."

This is solidified by the "code of silence” which often exists in groups that haze. Sometimes, individuals are expressing their own sadistic feelings and rationalize it by saying "I have the right and duty to do onto you what was done to me."

There are many complex psychological reasons that are found in groups that haze. To further understand the dynamics, please continue reading about "The Perfect Storm Theory."

The Perfect Storm Theory

Meteorologists refer to a perfect storm when particular conditions combine into a rare and deadly storm. Very specific elements must merge in order to create the extreme chaos of a perfect storm. This concept applies to The Perfect Storm Theory of Hazardous Hazing.

The psychology of hazing involves several elements, which collide within a specific framework and cause "the perfect storm" increasing the likelihood of hazardous hazing events. The conditions of my theory are as follows:


Darwin's theory of "survival of the fittest" may account for our need to seek a group to identify with: a group that protects and therefore increases the individual's chances of survival. Perhaps hazing is somehow part of that group process, in that it determines who is "fit" to join the group. Forming an alliance with a group is quite common, and it seems that all humans, being social animals, seek groups to identify with. How one pledges allegiance to that group differs from person to person and group to group. Regardless of the methodology, the end result is the same: the member feels part of a larger whole and the group accepts and incorporates the individual member. This symbiotic relationship serves both the individual and the group and provides an identity. The group distinguishes itself from other groups and solidifies the "us vs. them" mentality that creates boundaries, however false, that satisfy the need to feel safe within the group. Therefore, part of joining a group is for protection from outsiders; and by joining, one is assuming that the members of the same group will be protective towards one another.

For example, religions have required that certain rituals are performed when a baby is born, such as a christening or bris; and later, after an identity is formed it is solidified by a confirmation or bar-mitzvah. Similarly, clubs and teams have formal and informal methods to strengthen identity and allegiance, such as traditions and initiation rites. The intent is not to significantly harm those trying to gain entrance, though it may be to distinguish the kind of people that the group wants to have join. Despite the fact that many people are hurt and killed during some initiations, it is not the original intent of the group to really cause major and long-lasting physical or psychological damage. This occurs when situations skid out-of-control, such as when a hazing turns hazardous!


The Developmental Needs of Adolescence (and young adulthood)

The period of adolescence is one in which tremendous physical, social and psychological growth occurs, within a relatively rapid time frame. The growth spurts are uneven and idiosyncratic, fueled by a combination of forces including hormonal, genetic, familial, intellectual and experiential. One of the primary purposes of adolescence is to separate from the family of origin, to seek an identity, and to participate in group activities, which provide social bonds. For the first time adolescents must deal with their own sexual and aggressive impulses, and with their own drives for achievement and mastery. Most adolescents engage in "trial and error" as they sample the world around them. It is difficult to predict where and how an adolescent may evolve given the stormy nature of this stage. Certainly there are many factors, which influence the individual's development and their ability to navigate through the rough seas, which are the hallmark of this period.

· Separation from Family

The task of adolescence actually involves both the individual and the family. It is at this time that the individual must venture away from home, testing their social, emotional, intellectual, athletic and physical strengths and abilities. Simultaneously, parents need to give a "vote of confidence" to their child, encouraging him to move forward and become an individual. Separation is scary to both parents and child, and neither enjoys the task. As part of discovering one's own identity, the adolescent must test the limits and challenge the authority figures. Sometimes this is done by intense discussions, sometimes it is acted-out in safe and dangerous ways.

· Identity and Mood

The adolescent needs to find his or her own identity, which may or may not coincide with the one that has been suggested by their parents. To do this, they go for "test-drives" with different kinds of people doing various activities. They are not at ease in this period; and they are desperately seeking acceptance by a group other than their family. They want to recreate the feeling of comfort that they felt as part of their own family. For those students who had difficult early experiences, the need to belong and establish a feeling of safety and identity within a group, may be even more important.

Adolescents are driven by their moods, and they tend to make impulsive decisions. Strong emotions often cloud logical thinking, causing poor judgment and sometimes hazardous consequences. As their bodies and identity change, they are feeling insecure and navigating through the riptides of adolescence is difficult. For this reason, many adolescents seek the safety of a group, that has a structure, rules, and an authority figure. This format gives them a sense of security and familiarity, since it is a repetition of their own family. It may also promise other benefits, such as instant friends, parties, or important connections for college or work.

· Acceptance in a Group

Being accepted into a specific group, whether it is the popular kids, the soccer team, or the band, often appears to be the most important task that the adolescent can accomplish. Rationally, students believe that the group will provide some attribute which will make life better. Unconsciously, students perceive membership as providing an identity, security and protection.

Outsiders often wonder why students students “allow themselves to be hazed." Certainly adolescents would never tolerate the same kinds of degrading acts if parents or teachers required it; so why do they put themselves to be put in these humiliating and dangerous situations?

The answer lies in understanding the following:

The individual trusts that the group will not really harm them. People project a feeling of trust onto the group that they are trying to join. Sometimes the groups actually use terms, such as “brother/sister, mother/father” to unconsciously encourage the sense of trust and belonging. Therefore, there is an assumption that the group will not put anyone in danger.

The student does not know what will be happening to them. The element of surprise is key to hazing rituals. The victims are not told about the events before they are “stuck” in the situation.

They also believe that there are no other alternatives to gain entry. Typically, there is no choice. For example, there is only one football team or one marching band, so if you want to be part of such groups there is no other choice.

Adolescents value the membership in the group regardless of their own discomfort. The importance of being accepted by a group has become more important in the 21st century. Social media is structured around “friend groups.” Group Identity is more important than ever.

* Individual vs. Group Identity

Sometimes, as is often seen in movies depicting boot camp, the individual’s identity is replaced by the group identity. In order to achieve this metamorphosis a series of grueling activities may be required. Respecting the authority figures, or elders of the group, becomes key. Blind obedience is often part of this process, and ends with the individual supplanting his or her own judgements with the morality of the group.

* Family and Group Identity

Both the individual and the group need to recreate the feeling of a family. Therefore the new person unconsciously extends feelings of trust toward the group. They expect the group to treat them as their family would; therefore, they expect that they will not be really injured or threatened. The newcomer naively and innocently obeys the older members, assuming that they will be safe. Likewise, a team, band or sorority, also identify themselves as a family. Frequently they capitalize on this by referring to one another as “brother/sister” etc. This helps to solidify the identity of the group and engenders a sense of belonging and trust. Such groups create the feeling of us vs. them, which helps increase the solidarity of the group, and often depicts their own group as being better than other similar groups.

· Aggression and Sexuality

Aggressive and sexual feelings increase during adolescence. Physical and emotional growth is driven by hormones, which are unevenly secreted throughout adolescence. As students grow and change they have varying degrees of control over their bodies, minds and souls. Everyone, parents, teachers and kids, wish that they were in total control, but the truth is: they are not.

Expressing one's aggressive feelings is very common during adolescence. Sometimes girls and boys may act out their anger, rage, disappointment and pure aggression on an athletic field, at their little brother, or towards their peers, parents or teachers. Sometimes the aggression can be channeled in positive and meaningful ways, bringing success to the individual as they compete in athletics, academics or in another arena. Sometimes the aggression is channeled in destructive ways, creating havoc to the student and others around him.

I believe that aggression has increased within the past ten to fifteen years and that it is seen in an increase in more aggressive hazings. The cause, seems to go back to Darwin's theory, survival of the fittest. Competition has increased dramatically, due to an increase in the adolescent population as well as the global competition created by the internet and media. Everyone feels the heat of competition, no matter their area of work or play. In order to succeed, one must become more aggressive, and many humans will do almost anything to win, or survive, as the case may be.

The most intense change for an adolescent is that of becoming a sexually active young adult. Hormones increase the sexual drive of both males and females; and the media also pumps up the individual's drive to act in a sexually provocative manner. Therefore adolescents are bombarded, consciously and unconsciously, with messages that tell them to explore sexuality. This is part of normal adolescent development. However, due to increased competition, the drive to be hypersexualized has increased. Therefore, males feel pressured to be hypermasculine and females feel the need to be hyperfeminine. Unfortunately, the individuals may not be able to handle their new found sexuality.

If we add normal sexual and aggressive drives, to the current cultural conditions of increased competition, we see how young adults may be driven to act out in self-destructive ways. Remembering that adolescents are driven by impulsive emotions, one can start to imagine how and why adolescent groups and traditions can spin out of control.

Sexuality is infused throughout our culture and it is integrated into hazing rituals. Sodomy has become a frequent part of hazing on athletic teams, especially in high school. Though more commonly reported on boys teams, similar kinds of sexualized hazing activities are also found on girls athletic teams. However, sexualized hazing is also occurring in fraternities and sororities.


The tradition, or initiation rite, is a series of actions, which have been passed down from one generation to the next. In this case, a generation of high school students is defined as no more than four years (seniors vs. freshmen.) There are certain assumptions about the tradition. First, the tradition is accepted by those seeking membership, such as freshmen. It may also be accepted and expected by parents and the community, as well as by those already within the group or team. Those members of the group who have already been initiated implicitly agree to continue the tradition.

The newcomers, (sometimes known as "newbies") expect, as part of the initiation process, to endure something, and often think the process will be fun. They may expect to perform some acts that are uncomfortable or distasteful, but for the most part, they do not expect to be put into seriously dangerous positions, i.e., they do not expect to have life-threatening or significantly harmful physical and psychological experiences. In fact, the rhetoric of the group is that the purpose of the initiation rite is to increase trust among the members of the group. The parents, coaches and community members, who often have been hazed and have been hazers as well also assume that the initiation rite will be similar to their own, and therefore they do not object to the continuation of the tradition. There is often a belief that continuing the tradition is either a form of fun or essential to proving one's status, e.g. masculinity. Therefore, the tradition is accepted by the individual the group, and sometimes by the parents and community.


The next important factors in creating the conditions necessary for a hazardous hazing involve environmental circumstances. There must be two kinds of conditions that are available in order for hazing to succeed: the adolescents need to secure a location where the group can gather, and there must be the belief that there will not be adult supervision or intervention. Although this often involves locations on school property, even during school events, the students perceive that the teachers, coaches or other supervisory personnel will not stop the activity. The covert acceptance of the tradition, as explained previously, sets the stage for a location to exist. Often these same locations were used in previous years, as in a school play where a stage or props may be re-used from year to year. Therefore, once a hazing is discovered, even if it has already occurred, school personnel should assume that it will occur again, at the same place.

The second circumstance, besides location, is the existence and availability of "time" for the events to occur. For example, enough time to complete the hazing before an adult will intervene or a place and time which is likely never to be discovered by potential supervisors. Timing is important, not only for secrecy, but it is often part of the tradition. Events occur in the middle of the night, or on a special day, or under specific weather conditions, such as marching in the snow in only underwear.

Before the rituals occur, the entire group comes up with a cover story to tell authorities should they be discovered. In this way, everyone feels protected, and the code of silence is maintained. It makes it even more difficult for officials to learn about the true events of a hazing. However, sometimes it appears that the officials, themselves, do not want to acknowledge the events as hazing. They too, would like to deny it, and accept the cover story. Each time this occurs, hazing is being condoned, and the likelihood of it being repeated, is increased.


Emotional states vary according to time and place. For example, after a grueling football practice, where the team was not in sync, and the coach was harsh and demanding, the players will pile into the locker room, exhausted and stressed. They have been required to increase their aggressiveness, react without thinking, and do as they are told. They may have felt humiliated, degraded and embarrassed, or vice-versa, they may feel grandiose and powerful. Regardless of the emotion, it is intense. Suddenly they must "come down" and be grounded. They are full of adrenaline and yet they need to regroup and redirect their energies. However, there is no adult supervision and no activity to help them settle down. This is an example of an emotionally charged state that may set the seeds of a hazardous hazing.

Each member of the group brings an array of feelings that may influence the outcome of a hazing. In the above example, the personality and style of the coach is significant. The coach models behaviors, and his behaviors and status are covertly given to the captains or star athletes. This power is part of the issues of respect and hierarchy that is maintained by traditions which sometimes become hazardous hazings. However, not only is the personality and emotional state of the authority figure relevant, the personality and emotional states of the perpetrators, bystanders and victims are also quite important.

· The Perpetrators: Personality and Emotional State

The individual personalities of the senior members of the group are critical. The individual characteristics of these students will vary tremendously, although they enjoy their "senior status" because of their successes (e.g., on the field) and by recognition from the authority figure (e.g., coach) for their leadership abilities. These students are often older, physically larger and more experienced than the younger members of the team. Their individual personalities and academic achievements may vary from introversion to extroversion, or from being an outstanding student to barely passing. Some may have a history of acting out behaviors, whereas others may be considered "model citizens."

Each of the students, regardless of past successes, may experience feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. There may have been incidents where the coaches, parents or teachers have challenged the individual, heightening his emotional state. For example, a captain who has been awarded a scholarship may be heady with power, feeling invulnerable. In contrast, the same star athlete may be anxiously waiting to hear from his college of choice about an acceptance. Therefore, regardless of specific personality strengths or weaknesses, the same adolescent may be revved with anxiety or grandiosity. Either emotion, when ignited and coupled with other factors may help the fire grow, allowing the hazing ritual to heat up into a hazardous zone.

There may be a player with a rogue personality. For example, let's use "Taz" (after the Tasmanian devil), a senior linebacker who is respected for his impulsivity, aggression and drive to win on the field. However, his lack of self-control, and his disrespect for rules, as well as his own feelings of inadequacy, may create a person who is likely to lead the team into hazardous hazing. It is interesting to notice that from the coach's point of view, the athlete who is most aggressive, most daring or most involved in doing whatever it takes to win is the one who is considered the best. Coaches often try to unleash and harness the tremendous sexual and aggressive energy that is characteristic of adolescents. What they often fail to do is to help the very same athlete learn how to reduce his adrenalin, control his aggression and return to a more appropriate emotional state once he is off the field. It is this "coming down" state which is frequently handled in the locker room, with teammates, and without adult leadership. It is during this time frame, where emotional states are heightened and unchecked, that potentially risky situations are created.

· The Bystanders: Personality and Emotional State

The bystanders may be the most important group in the development of direction and magnitude of a hazing event. According to the theory of the perfect storm, the bystanders hold the cards, in terms of being able to take control of the situation, should they want to. Unlike other professionals, I do not believe that the individual bystander, acting alone, can stop the action (except by reporting it to appropriate authorities). However, I do believe that the group as a whole, which usually outnumbers the perpetrators and victims, has the potential to rise up and save both ends from negative consequences. This requires the presence of one or more confident and mature members. Therefore, the individual personalities of the bystanders are significant. If there is a leader with a charismatic personality, one whose moral compass is in tact, and one who has not been swept away in the heightened activity of the group, he or she, might have the ability to influence other members of the bystanders. This leader or leaders needs to have the support of most of the group of bystanders. In this way the individual personalities whose moral strengths outweigh their weaknesses, and whose internal controls are functioning, may have significant effects on the outcome of the hazing event. By way of contrast, should the individual personalities of the bystander group involve students that swing more to the acting out, extroverted or uninhibited, the consequences of the hazing may be pushed further than the perpetrators expected. This dynamic, where the bystanders chant "more, more, more," allows pure emotion to govern the actions, temporarily suspending the student's judgment, and their accountability (or so they think).

· The Victims

In hazing, the victims are typically randomly chosen; therefore there does not seem to be a particular personality profile, which may be applied to all victims. Unlike in bullying, the victims have one thing in common, they are all part of the same class of people; i.e. freshmen football players or pledges for a fraternity. It is true that sometimes a particular member of the victim class may have a personality or behavior that seems to “invite” perpetrators to be harder on that particular person, thereby increasing the likelihood that the hazing will end in more pain and suffering. For example, a smaller or shorter athlete may be hazed more aggressively.

Sometimes all members of the group are hazed, and sometimes specific victims are chosen. It is important to understand that if you are part of the group, but not actually hazed, you can still be traumatized.

There are victims who seem to volunteer for the hazing. This may come from their strong need to please the authority figures and their need to be accepted by the group. The need to please those in charge is often noted in students who do well in school and who are generally compliant and well behaved. Such children transfer their feelings and experiences from the familiar, well-controlled classroom to the locker room. The child expects the same positive response he gets from teachers, although he is in for a surprise! He has invested a certain amount of trust and faith, based on his previous experiences, and expects the new authority figures, namely the captains and elders of the team, to have in place the same kind of controls as he has come to expect in school settings. He is too young, naive and needy to suspect that he will soon be hurt. Victims who step up to drink more alcohol or take more lashes do so to save their peers. For example, often pledges will be told that they must finish a huge amount of alcohol in a short amount of time. Sometimes a pledge will push himself to drink a lot thinking that he is helping his cohorts. Unfortunately, some of these brave souls have ended up dying in the process.

Perhaps the most common psychological profile shared by the victims involves their status in the group and their emotional state. By definition, the uninitiated may be physically smaller and/or less able to defend themselves. The differences in terms of size, social status or knowledge of the group dynamics, is clear to everyone involved. The newcomer wants and needs to be accepted, perhaps "at all costs." As a needy adolescent he may be more willing to try anything in order to be accepted. It seems that fear and anxiety, mixed with excitement and anticipation, are the most common emotional states for the victims.

The freshman, newcomer, or new initiate, is also doing his best to impress the leader (coach) such as by exerting himself physically and following the rules. This may put the student under undue stress, physically and psychologically by trying to adapt to the overt and covert requirements of the team. The fact that the young adolescent has no previous hazing experience and therefore has no frame of reference to categorize his experiences or emotions leaves him in a more vulnerable emotional state.


The dynamics of the group exist on many levels, since the group, really comprises three sets of subgroups that are united by a common bond. Therefore, there are actually four groups to examine: the newbies, the bystanders, the seniors and the entire group as a whole.

The newcomers may be familiar with one another, having formed bonds from some previous situation. In this case they may have an identity and feel protective of one another. In contrast, the newbies may have no previous experiences with one another; they may feel like disparate individuals who are competing against one another for the favor of the adult and student leaders. In this case, their competitiveness may drive them to be uncaring towards their peers. Should a hazing occur, the newbie may feel fear and blend into the background in order to avoid being victimized; or he may feel that any intervention is useless in contrast to the strength of the perpetrators. An overwhelming sense of helplessness in the face of massive strength and tradition is the likely dynamic of the subgroup of newcomers during hazing events.

The dynamics of the bystanders is of utmost importance, for this is usually the largest group. Frequently the bystanders have either been victimized or have witnessed a hazing. Therefore, they are in some way responsible for the continuation of the tradition. Due to the "code of silence" which usually accompanies the initiation process, the bystanders have chosen not to break the code, not to report the hazing. As bystanders, they have the power to influence the events; should they feel that hazardous hazing is wrong, they may try to intervene, tempering the violence of the perpetrators. If, however, they feel that the violence is justified, or if they enjoy identifying with the aggressors, they may increase the levels of violence.

The identity of the bystanders may not be defined until the moment the hazing begins, for one never knows how individuals may act during times of stress. This group is the one which is least threatened and therefore has the potential to maintain some level of emotional stability.

The dynamics of the seniors or potential perpetrators is of critical significance, since without them no hazings occur. Within this group there seems to be a few leaders who are surrounded by a few peers of almost equal status. The dynamics of this group may depend on many factors, including rivalry within this group for the most respected position. Other dynamics may be observed, such as a rigid authoritarian flavor, which occurs when the individual's personality is extremely overpowering. If the leader is in an imbalanced emotional state, it is possible that hazardous hazing may be triggered. In a nutshell, if the leaders are impulsive, aggressive and/or sexualized, it is likely that the group dynamics will be ignited and hazardous events will occur.

The dynamics of the large group, meaning everyone on the team, may be influenced by the tone and nature of the adult leader (e.g. coach.) The expectations of the leader, who is often revered and respected, are communicated directly and indirectly. His values and methods of dealing with all the team players will be reflected in the tenor of the larger group. Another factor relevant in the dynamics of the large group is simply the time and experiences that they have had to bond. It is difficult to predict how a group will mesh, although after some amount of time together, teachers and others familiar with group dynamics often notice and identify specific groups by their dynamics (i.e. a high achieving group vs. an aggressive or impulsive group.)


The adult leader of a group of adolescents has many responsibilities, some which they may not even be aware of. The leader has his own individual personality and psychological state, and his own style of leading. In addition, he often plays a role of "father figure" (or mother figure.) These three levels of influence are relevant to the character and well being of the group of adolescents. For the purposes of this explanation, I will refer to the adult leader as "coach." Even, if the group being lead is not of an athletic nature, the concept of coach often holds true.

The individual personality of the coach is varied, though one may assume that they enjoy competition, working with teams, and are often trained as teachers. Their own needs to succeed, as well as their previous experiences as an athlete or member of a team, most definitely influence their personality and expectations of themselves and others. In addition, their current stage in life, as well as previous experiences, including their own childhood, may influence their personality. Perhaps what is most important in assessing the personality of a coach is their ability to handle their own emotions in an appropriate manner. The coach's personality and emotional states definitely influence the team.

Coaching styles have been defined and organized into three broad categories. The most widely accepted and expected style is known as authoritarian, in contrast to the cooperative and casual styles of coaching.Coaching styles may be defined as follows.

The authoritarian coach is centered on winning; he is inflexible and makes all the decisions. The cooperative coach is centered on the athlete; he is flexible and the coach guides decisions with input from the athletes. The casual coach has no emphasis, lacks structure and allows the athletes to make decisions. The style of the coach will also play a significant role in the intensity of the teams' efforts and in their style of communication with the coach and within the group. For example, a coach who encourages interaction and communication with his players is more likely to hear about or sense emotional instability within the team. A coach who is authoritarian and distant is more likely to be removed from the emotional core of the group. In this way the values and style of the coach has significance in increasing or decreasing the likelihood of hazardous hazing.

Of significance, is the role of coach and how the individual athletes perceive him. In psychology there is a term known as "transference" in which an individual projects thoughts and feelings derived from an important relationship and transfers these intense feeling onto another person. The coach may be a neutral screen upon which the players each project or "transfer" their own image, grasping for some need to be filled. The following is an explanation of how the coach may be incorporated into the athlete's persona.

Coaches strive to re-create a feeling of family among the team. The coach becomes the all powerful father figure who will teach, guide and support the players, leading them to be successful. Driven by his need to separate from his family the adolescent is searching for a place to land, an identity to hold, a group to make him feel welcome and grounded. Coaches will often make him feel at home, welcoming him into the fold, praising his efforts and helping him to move beyond his failures. This meets the adolescent's need for the perfect wished-for father. The team becomes the new family, with the coach as father (respected and feared) and the rest of the team as siblings.

According to my own surveys I found that coaches were considered very powerful and therefore they have the ability to influence the behavior of individuals and groups. It is vital for leaders, such as coaches, to understand their power and their responsibility, especially in terms of the overt and covert messages that are sent regarding hazing.


A complex condition is that of the "attitude towards authority." There are several levels that are relevant to this issue. To begin with, the attitude of the community towards the adult leader of the team or group is of utmost importance. For example, the football coach is often a significant and well-respected person in the community. For those communities in which athletics are significant, the coach of specific teams such as football, holds tremendous power. If he is successful, by producing winning teams, his status is often raised above that of anyone else in the community. The coach has the ultimate power to choose the team, and choose who shall play and who shall be benched. Therefore, the coach wields the kind of power that no one else has. Parents, who might complain about a teacher or a system, do not complain because they fear that the coach will seek retribution by not allowing their child to play. Therefore the parents and the community give up their rights by elevating the coach to a larger-than-life position of power. In such communities, the superintendent, principal and other school officials also allow the coach to have power and they do not implement the same checks and balances for the coach that they might for a teacher. Therefore, the coach assumes responsibility and power, and both are unchecked. Since the typical system of checks and balances is not in effect, the coach's influence increases yearly.

In those communities where athletics, such as football, are of utmost importance, the winning coach becomes like the mayor, the president or the idol. This hierarchy is a reflection of the adults' values. It may have a psychological significance to the adults, for example, it may be a re-creation of their own youth. The adults of the community, regardless of age, continue to worship the sport, and the coach, in the same way that they did when they were players or cheerleaders. Some parents' identities are enhanced as they vicariously live through their child and take pride in the team's success. This identification by the adults towards the team may continue even once their children are no longer on the team. In these cases, one can see how extremely important the team becomes for the community as a whole. In this way, the attitude towards authority, like the initiation rites, is often passed on from generation to generation.

The adolescents absorb this attitude towards authority and accept it without question. After all, most adolescents are taught to respect authority figures and to follow their directions, often without question. It is those kinds of students, who are most often chosen for teams because they demonstrate the ability to follow directions and cooperate with others. Sometimes these adolescents have been raised by parents who encourage their children to obey the coach's orders without question.

This complete loss of checks and balances creates an environment in which events are likely to skid out of control.


· Identification with the Aggressor

There are two psychological processes that account for imitation. One, known as "identification with the aggressor" is a defense mechanism. In this circumstance any person, or child repeats what has been done to them and often exaggerates it. The repetitious behavior is done in order to experience a sense of control over a situation in which he originally had no control. The coach may treat his athletes with intense emotion, demanding a very high level of performance, and using intimidation, aggression, humiliation and other techniques to stimulate top performance. The student leader, the captains or outstanding performers, repeat that which has been done to them. Therefore, those players who have been humiliated, or abused, or treated in a strict authoritarian manner, absorb the coach's position, power, and style and repeat it on the lesser members of the team. The captains will exaggerate that which was done to them. In this way, the captains exert power that may, under specific circumstances, become out of control, and abusive. However, since they carry the "OK" from the coach, the implicit power that has been passed overtly and covertly creates a situation in which the other team members are intimidated and do not question their authority, just as their parents did not question the authority of the coach. In other words, the status quo is maintained and the tradition continues, though it is likely to have increased in intensity.

· Repetition Compulsion

Another psychological process which is central to the theory of the perfect storm is known as repetition compulsion. This occurs when we find ourselves in a position which is familiar; where the textures of the relationship are similar to those that they have experienced at an earlier part of our lives, usually a replication of some unfinished business from childhood. One unconsciously reenacts the behavior, driven by the wish to correct any injustices. Repetition compulsion is the reason that the victim needs to repeat what has been done. He is driven to re-enact the hazing so that he may gain control; it is an attempt to work through his traumatic experiences. This accounts for the zeal of bystanders and perpetrators. To the reader it may be difficult to understand how former victims can be so unempathetic. However, the answer is in the victims intense, unconscious drive to re-write, replay, and re-do that which has been done to him; in a different way, in a way that allows him to fight his sense of helplessness.

In the opposite scenario, one in which the victim feels overwhelmed with potential fear and guilt at becoming a perpetrator, the need to repeat the behavior would also occur. However, for this adolescent his fantasy would be to stop, modify or re-direct the hazing into something less violent. This is a less likely scenario since most people want to seek revenge. As demonstrated in the famed Milgram experiments, when humans are given unchecked power to inflict pain, most seem to enjoy doing it. The repetition compulsion is inherently human and the drive to repeat and repair is pre-set. The question of personality and past experiences comes into play at this time and influences individuals, driving them in a particular direction.

Other perspectives may see these psychological processes in terms of conditioned responses. The behaviorists would view many of these incidents as learned behavior. The expectation would be that once learned, the behavior is repeated, unless it is stopped by an outside force.


The Perfect Storm was defined as a special set of conditions that occur in a particular sequence which when combined produce an extreme event. Each of the meteorological conditions may exist alone or in some other combination, to produce a storm, but not a storm of extraordinary circumstances. Similarly, the conditions, that were just outlined, explain how "The Perfect Storm" occurs among adolescents and young adults. The nine conditions do occur alone and in combination at other times; however when some or all of the conditions occur as stated, it is more likely that hazing will skid into the hazardous zone. Therefore, the theory of The Perfect Storm explains the psychological aspects relevant to hazardous hazings.